The Big Event

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The Big Event

It has been many months since this event and enough time and distance has passed so that by writing about this now no confidence or security will be breached.

Several months ago a very famous Latin singer gave a special and very private concert as a gift for a very famous designer at a famous New York theatre.  I wish to name the singer and the designer – but this is as far as they would let me go in my description.  I did ask permission and I did explain what I wished to write about for an article, this article, for Executive Protection educational purposes. While they understood this– they wished me to remain discreet about the specifics of the who and where of the event.  I must – as we all do – respect their wishes.

The event was a private concert being given as a gift from the performer and his friends to the designer and his friends. The event was by invitation only.  The invitations were made by phone and guests were checked off as they were recognized and only then were they permitted to enter the security screening zone. The security was reminiscent of that at an American Airport, but with security provided by men and women with advanced degrees, with real federal badges, wearing proper suits and possessing exquisite manners.

The security was fascinating.  It began with the invitation list. The invitation list was hand crafted and kept in a small locked portfolio inside a safe.  By hand crafted – it was written by hand.  Every detail was done in pen and ink and it was never computerized. The guest’s full names and their titles were logged as well as, their proper private addresses, their private telephone numbers.  If the guests accepted the invitation, they are sent photo of each of the guests was pasted next to their name.

The invitations were done by phone or by private visit.  There were no emails, no written invitations, and no tickets.  Even a misplaced invitation could have been a serious security breach.  All inviting and acceptances was done by phone or in person.

The theatre where the event was held, did not announce the event and in fact it did not even schedule a private event. The theatre just went dark for 4 nights.  No announcements. If the theatre was asked about any activity that may have been going on to get ready for the private concert – the reply was that it was just maintenance that they were doing.

Two days before the event stagehands were called in for a last minute set up for a music video. Not only was it plausible but it raised zero suspicion of the stage hands as they set up the famous singer’s equipment.  On the night of the event all stage hands were required to surrender their cell phones and were put through security.  Once the stagehands and theatre professionals went through security, only then were they given knowledge of the nature of the event. Furthermore, they were not allowed access to their cellphones or even allowed to leave until the end of the concert and after all of the guests had departed.

On the appointed night, as the guests arrived – they were required to leave their Executive Protection detail at the curb, provide contact information for the Executive Protection detail, leave behind all cell phones and other RF devices, and to enter the theatre through a front door that has been shielded from the public view by very heavy curtains.

Once the guests entered the curtain-crafted foyer, four people who had also memorized the photos of the guests and were trained in face recognition introduced the guests to the hosts one by one.  Once they were identified a host greeted them by name, and escorted them to security.  Security was just like at the American airports with the millimeter wave scanners. However, shoes could stay on.  A few cell phones were discovered and checked after the security screening – but on the whole it was a peaceful process.

Once inside the theatre, there were no restrictions.  The musicians, the guests, the guest of honor all mingled until it was time for the show.  I was told the artist was at the top of his game and provided a wonderful show and a memorable experience for the guest of honor. As I was working I could only catch bits of the performance.

At the end of the performance all guests were instructed to remain in the theatre until they were escorted by hosts to the curtain crafted foyer for departure.  The hosts contacted the Executive Protection teams and the teams arrived two or three at a time, no more. The hosts identified and gathered up the appropriate guests so as they were taken to the curtain crafted foyer their car and their Executive Protection team was waiting.  This kept traffic outside the theater to a minimum and denied any mischief-maker a concentrated target of high profile individuals.

After all of the high profile persons had departed, the theater staff were allowed to get their cell phones, call all of their friends and tell them who they saw on stage and in the audience and depart too. However, the event sponsor in conjunction with the theatre management held a post concert event just for the staff who had worked very hard and had done such a great job.  The post concert staff party was about as much fun as a group of security professionals, stage hands, musicians and hosts could have ever had sitting on risers, scaffolding and folding chairs. Theatre staff were all given little envelops with some “tip money” from the performer.

By the time I left, the musicians had packed up, the crafted and heavily curtained foyer and elaborate security process with blinking machines had all been disassembled and carted away.  I just walked out of the theatre through the small but smart lobby out into the very cold February night air in New York.  I walked eastward, got a slice of NY Pizza and a beer in a plastic glass at one of the quintessential corner pizza vendors that never seem to close and walked back to my hotel.  It had been a heck of a lot of work as a liaison between the host and over 40 Executive Protection details and to work as part of a team to pull off, seamlessly I might add, our little part of the security for a big event.

This Executive Protection article was written or edited by Baron James Shortt, the Executive Director of the IBA.


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